Luke 15:11-24 v. 20 so he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him.
One of the easiest things to do in life is to fall in love. Anybody can fall in love. Most of us know how to do that. Just check out that nice pair of jeans, those huge biceps, see his nice car, watch her bat one eyelash at you, and boom, it’s all over. We’re in love. The degree of difficulty in falling in love is not that high at all. Even if we’re not talking about romantic relationships, I can recall the first time I saw my children when they were born, heck when I first heard that MyWife was pregnant, that’s all it took. I was in love. I was bouncing off the walls both times. Starting a relationship isn’t all that difficult at all. Even friendships aren’t that difficult to start. I went to the school yard as a little boy and picked up a basketball and started playing. Some kid heard the ball bouncing and came over and joined me, and we’ve been friends every since. I came to Second Baptist to preach my first sermon, met some young whipper snapper deacon named Bert Board, and boom, we’ve been friends ever since. Starting a relationship isn’t hard to do at all. But the hard part of life is when those relationships go sour, when the ones we love the most are the ones who hurt us the most, when we spear each other with verbal weapons of mass destruction, when the relationship is broken and it looks like years of friendship, years of a marriage, even sometimes our relationship with our children or our family members become estranged and broken, that’s when we learn that making up is hard to do.
I know the old school song says that “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” but the truth is breaking up is pretty easy to do. I was looking at this parable of the Prodigal Son, and began to see how easy it was for him to wreck his relationship with his father, and how easy it is for us to wreck our relationships with each other, our marriages, families, friendships, churches, anything. All it takes is a little disrespect, selfishness and stupidity. Any combination of the three will suffice. And those things are easy to do. The prodigal son came to his father in verse 12 and said, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” No, “please,” no, “yes sir,” no “if it’s possible?” No, “Thank you.” The son didn’t even ask, he came in and demanded, “Give me.” Disrespect. No acknowledgement of the many years of hard work his father had put in to accumulate his wealth, and didn’t even realize whose money it was, “Give me MY share.” Selfishness. Dad works all his life and sonny boy says, “Give me MY share.” Dad works graveyard, and sonny boy says, “MY share.” I don’t know about you, but if that got done in my parents’ house, if I had come in and demanded this or demanded that, I can tell you right now, it wouldn’t have been pretty, “Orale, burro, estas loco! Quiate la boca. A fuera, ahora.” Selfishness. Then the son takes the money and goes off and spends it, not on a college education so he can prepare for life and learn how to make it in the world, not on a solid investment that will reap rewards for years to come, not on a house, nothing in an IRA account. Boyfriend goes off to a different country, and squandered it on riotous living, partying, boozing, drugs, bling, restaurants, hotels, stuff that once you spend it, it’s gone. Stupidity!
Oh, I don’t care what the song says, truth is that breaking up is easy to do. Just disrespect your spouse male or female, just get selfish and start focusing only on my thing, and my needs and my stuff, and my desires, instead of what’s best for the family, what’s best for the marriage, what’s best for the church. Do something stupid and sleep with someone who isn’t your spouse, spend money on drugs and booze and other idiotic things. Throw a temper tantrum at a church meeting. Stupidity. You want to ruin a relationship, you want to break someone’s heart, you want to find yourself alone and hurting and wondering what in the world went wrong? Disrespect, selfishness and stupidity; that’s the way to go.
But what I like about this famous story that Jesus told is that it provides a blue print not only for how to ruin a relationship but also the recipe for reconciling a relationship. And it’s in looking at how this wayward, prodigal son came back into a relationship with his father that we can pick up some tips on how to patch up our own broken relationships, our own hurting families, our own busted up marriages. Only thing is, that when we look at what happened to patch this family back together again, we’ll understand that making up is hard to do. It’s not easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. Again, breaking up is the easy thing to do; it’s making up that’s the hard thing to do, the mature thing to do, and in the long run it is also the most rewarding thing to do. But anything that rewarding is going to take some sacrifices, some hard work, some swallowing of pride, some definite discomfort. And most people these days, they don’t want to do the hard work of making a relationship functional, of making a marriage healthy, of making a church stay together and grow. We’d rather take the easy road out and quit, quit on our marriages, quit on our friendships, quit on our jobs. We’ll just pack up and move to the next church instead of staying in the place of tension with other believers so that we can learn how to grow up, learn how to live in a world where not everyone agrees with you, learn how to live with folks whose backgrounds and cultures and perspectives on things may be different than yours. We’d rather just take the easy way out, the path of least resistance, and it’s breaking up that’s easy to do. Making up, beloved, making up is hard to do. Going to counseling, listening to someone else’ perspective on our actions, making changes to our lives and our lifestyles, changing how we treat each other, changing our bad habits, going against our selfishness and our machismo and our desire to have things done our way. That’s hard work. Making up is hard to do.
Let’s look at this estranged son in the story and see what happened, see what lessons we can learn that helped him patch things up with his father and can help us patch up our relationships. First thing I noticed is that he didn’t come to himself until after he’d gotten away from people giving him bad advice. Verse 15 says, “So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.” It wasn’t until his riotous living friends were out of earshot, when he was out in the fields, when it says in verse 16, “no one gave him anything,” when he was all alone with just his thoughts and those of the pigs he was feeding. Why didn’t he come to himself before then? Why not when he was with his so-called friends when he noticed his funds were drying up? Didn’t any of them tell him that he was beign selfish, that he was being disrespectful, that he was being stupid? Of course not! They had selfish motives going on themselves. They were just enjoying the ride, wasn’t costing them a thing, it was his life he was ruining. “He want to ruin it, let him! Yeah, go ahead, buy that sports car. You deserve it. Yeah, spend that money throwing another party. Spend it at the club; go ahead!”
And what I’m getting out of this is that sometimes, we have to get away from all the noise of so-called friends and just give ourselves a chance to think. To think rationally. Because not all the advice of friends is worth listening to. Some folks are offering bad advice. Married folks relying on the advice of their single friends who go to clubs, who are trying to pick up women, who cheat on their spouses, who are working on wife number 3 already and don’t seem to have learned anything from being married to wives #1 and 2. Folks who tell you, “girl you need to get out and have your fun.” Or, “Brother, don’t be hen-pecked, don’t let her run your life. You’re a man. BE a man.” Bad advice.
Ask yourself sometime, this person advising me about my marriage, are they married? Are they happy? Have they wrecked their lives doing these exact same things they’re advising me to do? Do I really want to be like them? Cuz, they ain’t happy, they ain’t married, they ain’t got a good relationship with their parents, they ain’t got anything I want! Bad advice. Stop listening to bad advice.
Some folks are taking advice about work and jobs from folks whose priorities aren’t your priorities, who think making money is above making it to your children’s ball game, who think moving up the ladder is more important than having a loving marriage, who think impressing the boss is more important than impressing your spouse. And if someone can’t understand how important your Christian faith is to you, how important it is to go to church on Sundays and get filled with encouragement and filled with wisdom and filled with the goodness of the Lord, if they don’t care how you believe God answers prayers, that the bible is God’s word, that Jesus will make a way for you out of no way, if they ain’t down with Jesus and they’re not down with YOU being down with Jesus, there’s a very good chance that you’re getting some bad advice! If their advice can’t be found in the scriptures, if they don’t care what Jesus had to say about it, if they can’t pray with you about the miracle of reconciliation, there’s a very good chance you’re getting bad advice. And the first thing we see that aided this prodigal son in mending the broken relationship with his estranged father, and it wasn’t easy because they’ll ridicule you, you’ll have to stand up to folks and tell them, thanks but no thanks, but he stopped listening to bad advice. Making up is hard to do.
Let me move on. Over in verse 17 when he came to himself, he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!” Second hard thing we see in how the son made up with his father was that he realized what he once had. Too many of us don’t realize how blessed we are. I said, we don’t realize how blessed we already are, how good we already have it, how good God has already been. We keep chasing waterfalls instead of sticking with the rivers in our own back yard. We think the grass is always greener on the other side. And sometimes, sadly, but sometimes, tragically, but sometimes, we have to lose what we had before we ever truly appreciate it. Sometimes we don’t know what we got until it’s gone. We don’t realize how much we loved someone sometimes until they’re gone and won’t come back or can’t come back. And it’s hard for us to admit sometimes that we had it better, that we were truly blessed, because we want our own decisions made during a temper tantrum, our own wisdom demonstrated in the stress of a shouting match, because of our stubbornness. And our stubbornness sometimes can cost us a chance to make up with our parents before they die. It can cost us a chance to live in a happy home with our spouse and our children, it can cost us our lives in a church family with people we love and people who love us because we refuse to admit, refuse to acknowledge, refuse to recognize all the blessings that God has already provided for us.
One of Tyler Perry’s movies mentioned the 80/20 rule, how folks often go after the 20% they think they don’t have and neglect the 80% they do have and wind up losing everything because they never realize how blessed they already are. Every now and then, I’ll hear young people wish they had the freedom that their friends have. Why can’t I stay out all night like my friends? Why can’t I hang on the street corner like everybody else? Sharice gets to do whatever she wants and nobody tells her nothing. But they don’t know those friends’ parents aren’t around, don’t care, don’t show up to concerts, don’t affirm them, don’t cheer them on, don’t pray for them, don’t take them to church, don’t care. “You don’t know how it is, Rev. Flores. My Mom and Dad always picking on me, always on my case, always checking up who I’m with, meeting my dates before we go out, setting curfews, grounding me for staying out too late, taking away TV privileges when I don’t get good grades.” Girlfriend or boyfriend, you don’t realize how blessed you are! One of our parents in the church told me about her daughter who is now 20-something, out of college, good job, on her own. And she told me that when her daughter was young in high school, she said things like, “Everybody else is doing it, why can’t I?” “I hate you!” “I wish I didn’t have a mother.” But a few years later when her daughter was in college, she came to her and said, “Mom, I’m so glad I had you for a mom. Some of my friends, they are all jacked up. Don’t know how to clean up after themselves, irresponsible, getting bad grades and blaming professors for it, get kicked out of school for getting arrested and blaming everybody else for it. I’m so glad you raised me like you did.” The prodigal son said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare!” He realized what he had.
Every now and then, someone sees how well our church is doing, more and more people, and they ask me if I’m going to leave this church for a big church, be on television. One person told me, “you know, these folks are snowing you, Rev, because at other Black churches the pastor makes more money, they give him a pastor’s Cadillac, and they will get your wife a fur coat. They probably think you don’t know you’re supposed to get that stuff.” But you know, I don’t even think about leaving this church for a fur coat and a Cadillac because there’s no guarantee that another church will fit me like this one, or that my wife will be happy, or that another church will appreciate a Mexican preacher who every now and then forgets he’s not Black. But I don’t even think about another church because I realize what I got, I realize what a special place this is, I realize that God’s doing something here that isn’t happening every place else! My wife is happy, my children are blessed, and I’m in love with this church. More money won’t be better than that. A Cadillac won’t be better than that. A fur coat won’t be better than that. Realize what you have, beloved. Realize how blessed you are with blessings that cannot be purchased by money, that cannot be made by the hands of human beings. Do the hard work of putting aside your pride and your ego and your ambition and realize how blessed you already are!
Making up is hard to do. He stopped listening to bad advice, he realized how blessed he already was. Third thing, he had to be willing to make a fool of himself in front of his father. Verse 18, “I will get up and go to my father and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me like one of your hired hands.” See, if there is going to be a reconciliation, if there is going to be some making up, if there is going to be a mending of a broken relationship, someone is going to have to humble themselves and take the first step and admit our sins. Someone has to do it. It requires great humility. It requires great honesty because truth is we’ve all got some blame in any broken relationship. And sometimes, in fact most times, it’s what keeps us from mending the brokenness, our unwillingness to get down on our knees and say, “I’m sorry.” To try to make up. Michael Jackson’s tear-jerker song, “She’s out of my life,” has a line it it about cursed pride, kept my love for her down deep inside, and it cuts like a knife, but she’s out of my life.” Oh, I tell you, there’s a whole lot of proud, arrogant, self-righteous lonely folks in the world. Whole lot of folks who never did anything wrong who somehow wound up as sad as can be. Whole lot of folks who did it their way but who died alone. My father in law and I had a rough start to our relationship, in part because I was marrying his only daughter and in part because I was just too good to be true. But it got very rough for us at the start, and Debbie and I went through a two year stretch where we weren’t talking to my father-in-law. But someone had to be humble enough, someone had to admit that the brokenness was not what God ordained for us, someone had to be big enough to initiate the reconciliation. And so, my father-in-law called me and said, “hey, next time you’re in town, I’d like to talk with you and Debbie.” And it was hard work, it wasn’t easy, but we were getting back together again, we were beginning the long process of healing our relationship so my wife could patch things up with her dad, so I could have a father in law, so we could see each other on holidays, during the summers, so he could call me during the ball game when I’m all alone down stairs at 11:30 at night and say, “Did you see that play?” It’s hard work. Making up is hard to do, but the rewards, the payoff, the joy of reconciliation, the hope for my children, the love for our family
Oh, one more thing that makes making up so hard to do. See, after you’ve stopped listening to bad advice, after you realized how blessed you really are, after you’ve humbled yourself and apologized, you also have to have a gracious and merciful father, someone who says, “come home, come home, ye who are weary come home.” You have to have a merciful father who isn’t interested in reviving the past wrongs but in building a beautiful future. Who Isn’t interested in humiliating you but in redeeming you. Isn’t interested in stigmatizing you, but in restoring you. Isn’t interested in lording it over you but in loving you, embracing you. Pharisees wanted God to be ungracious, unmerciful, unforgiving. They wanted a holy God but not a forgiving God.
Oh beloved, I know it sounds like all this is about our human relationships, about our marriages and our friendships and our churches. But remember that this scripture was all about people patching things up with God, about making up with God, about restoring our relationship with God. It’s about letting Jesus back in your heart, it’s about restoring the joy of your salvation, it’s about renewing a right spirit in you. And how many of us are listening to bad advice about God from people who don’t have a relationship with God for themselves? How many of us don’t realize just how much God has already done for you to prove his love for you? And 2,000 years ago, God took the initiative and sent his only begotten son for you and for me, for your sins and my sins. And all it takes is for us to humble ourselves
I was watching on youtube the testimony of Bishop Lester Love who when he was young he backslid, didn’t like churchfolk, didn’t like the music, didn’t like nothing about church. So he rebelled and left the church, got into all kinds of stuff., sex, drugs, rock and roll, the whole shebang. But he had a praying mother, who didn’t let go of her son in her prayers that he would one day be reconciled with God the father. Years later his mother told him to give the Lord a chance, come to church, and he did, he went to church and the Lord spoke to him through the sermon that day. He was moved to tears hearing about the mercy of God, the love of God, and he realized he needed to come home, come back to Christ, and when the time came, with tears streaming down his face, he went up and gave his life to Christ, joined the church. Well, afterward on the way home with his mother, she said, “so you’re okay with the music and the worship and all that now?” And he told his mother that the music and worship still wasn’t his thing, it didn’t speak to him, he didn’t feel it. So he turned on the radio, and listened to the first song they had on. And he told his mom, “now this one speaks exactly of how I feel about the Lord right now. This one I can feel. This one is me and the Lord right here. “I was a fool to ever leave your side. Me minus you is such a lonely ride, that breakup we had has made me lonesome and sad, I realize I love you and I want you back, hey, hey! Reunited and it feels so good, reunited cuz we understood, there’s one perfect fit and Jesus this one is it, we both are so excited cuz we’re reunited hey hey…”
Well, that’s all good and well, but isn’t there some gospel song that expresses the same thing? Andrae Crouch old song was expressing this same sentiment in song, having wandered away from the Lord, having lived a riotous life, having hurt and injured the lord, and he put it this way, “Take me back, take me back dear Lord. To the place where I first received you. Take me back, take me back dear Lord where I first believed.” Anybody here ever feel like you wish you could turn the clock back, like you wish you could take back all the stupid things we did out of anger, out of selfishness, out of pride. Humble yourself and come crying back to the Lord and say, “Take me back, take me back dear Lord.”